Desert Isle Keeper
a Retro Review
originally published on October 15, 1996
Velvet Bond is my favorite Medieval Romance. It isn’t filled with Court intrigue or warriors and battles. Instead it is simply the story of an incredible romance between a man and a woman amidst the country setting of medieval Britain.
Lord Raynor and Lady Elizabeth are forced into marriage by edict of the King after being caught in a compromising position. Rather than accept responsibility for his part in their predicament, Raynor chooses instead to blame Elizabeth’s impetuousness.
This is Raynor’s m.o. throughout much of the book in regards to Lady Elizabeth. Seeing conspiracies in everything she does, this beautiful lady who proves herself worthy to all around cannot prove herself worthy in his eyes.
While this is a common enough story-line in an historic romance, this author’s talent for detail, prose, and exquisite characterizations render it exceptional. In addition to Catherine Archer’s other gifts as an author, she can be subtle in turning an oft-used plot device on its head. Raynor’s stubborn denial of what Elizabeth brings extends beyond the emotional into the physical and so their sexual intimacy is very slow to build, extending and heightening the sexual chemistry and tension in the book. It is all the more effective in that Elizabeth longs for Raynor in a manner usually reserved for a man to long for a woman and that he denies her in a manner usually reserved for a woman denying her favors to a man.
My two favorite scenes in Velvet Bond are at the crux of Raynor’s battle with himself as far as Elizabeth is concerned. Such is the author’s talent that, in both instances, the reader will feel as though she has been transported in time and place and is intimately eavesdropping in close proximity to the action.
The first occurs in the Lady’s solar. After falsely accusing Elizabeth of a misalliance with his beloved brother, Raynor is set to right in a scene which will leave tears in the eyes of the most cynical reader. Elizabeth is hopeful that their marriage will now work, but the author has one more test for Raynor, who again fails to trust his loving wife.
In the second crucial scene the reader will feel as though she is literally standing where Elizabeth stands crying, hearing the words spoken by Elizabeth when she asks Raynor if there can never be joy in his loving her. We too are heart-broken upon hearing her litany of what Raynor expects and what Raynor gives in return. Our faith in the power of love returns when Raynor experiences Elizabeth’s truth.
It is slowly, almost excruciatingly slowly, that Elizabeth’s goodness becomes apparent to Raynor and he opens up his heart to her. While many readers, myself included, are often angered reading about heroines who accept the malevolence their heroes dish up, I never felt that in this book. Instead, I couldn’t wait to see how Raynor came around and accepted the love Elizabeth offered.
Raynor isn’t a suspicious, tortured hero for nothing. Indeed, his past is part of his present and his daughter is the only person that brings him any joy. The book’s villain is integral in his relationship with his daughter, his daughter’s dead mother, and also plays heavily in his suspicions regarding Elizabeth.
But for all of the intrigue that does exist in this book, this book is about Elizabeth and Raynor and their growing relationship. If you prefer epic romance with lots of action and daring-do, this won’t be the book for you. But if you want to feel caught up in a book that explores the sheer healing power of love in both its smallest and most grand levels, you will love Velvet Bond.